Quiet Space Politics: Emergence by C.J. Cherryh

C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series may not be the longest-running science fiction series still being published today, but it must certainly find itself among the longest to feature the same cast of characters. Emergence is the 19th in that series. It yet again deals with Bren Cameron, paidhi and ambassador between atevi and humans (though his duties have changed almost out of all recognition since Foreigner), and Cajeiri, the young heir to the aiji of the atevi, as they handle politics and consequences and the competing necessities of several different atevi factions—and another several human ones.

If you’re new to the Foreigner series, this is not the place to start. (The best advice is to start at the beginning, or else at book four, Precursor.) If you’re a fan, then it’s entirely likely that you already know whether or not you want to read Emergence: it does ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Odd and Satisfying

A while back, I worked out that I read at least fifteen books or novellas a month in the latter half of 2017, and wrote at least 10,000 words about them. That seems to be my ongoing average. Some of those books are easier to read than others—and some are easier to talk about. The books I want to tell you about this week aren’t easy to sum up: they’re satisfying, but they’re odd.

Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher—the penname of the Hugo-Award-winning Ursula Vernon—is really fun, and strangely difficult to describe. Its main characters have been condemned to death (or longterm imprisonment) for various crimes. But their city is losing a war, and losing badly. Their enemy employs “Clockwork Boys”—constructs of machinery and flesh that are practically unstoppable. Finding out how the Clockwork Boys are made, and how to stop them, is a suicide mission that’s already killed dozens. ...

Philosophical Science Fiction: The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer

The Will to Battle is the third book in Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series. I enjoyed Too Like the Lightning, the first book, for the glittering possibilities of its worldbuilding and its (apparently) utterly unreliable narrator; for the sense that it was setting up a great thematic argument between fate and free will in a technologically-driven society. I liked Seven Surrenders less, and felt did not live up to the promise of its predecessor.

Now The Will to Battle has clarified a number of things for me about Palmer’s work—not least of which is that Palmer has not actually written a series of novels, but instead, an extended philosophical commentary couched in science fictional language and using science fictional furniture.

The Will to Battle is part political manifesto; part theological tractatus (I use the Latin advisedly); part constructed dialogue between Thomas Hobbes, the book’s narrator, and ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Therapeutic Compassion

I missed Michelle Sagara’s Grave when it came out in January 2017, though I’d been looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy that started with Silence and continued in Touch. Emma Hall, whose necromantic power has drawn unpleasant attention from the Queen of the Dead, is on the run with her friends. If she’s going to survive and keep her friends alive—and open the doorway that leads the dead to peace, the one that the Queen has kept shut for centuries—she’s going to have to figure out how to confront the Queen and win.

And how to let go of Nathan, the boy she loved, who is now dead and bound to the Queen’s service.

Sagara’s trilogy is about grief and loss, about learning to not let oneself be defined by pain. It’s about friendship and mourning, and love. Grave takes these themes and sharpens them ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Alex Wells Answers Six Questions

This week, Alex Wells has agreed to join us for a few questions. You might recognise their name from around here: they’re the author of the excellent “Angel of the Blockade” as well as this year’s amazing desert-planet-mercenaries-and-magic science fiction novel Hunger Makes The Wolf. A sequel, Blood Binds The Pack, is coming early next year from Angry Robot, and I know that I’m excited.

LB: The setting for Hunger Makes the Wolf, Tanegawa’s World, is pretty much a company town, but it has a lot of, for lack of a better word, “weird” stuff going on with its natural resources. It has trains and lacks instant communication. Tell us a little bit about the decisions that led you to build the world in this way? (And what’s most fun about it?)

AW: I really wanted to capture a western mining town feel, because ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Warding off Winter Darkness

I live in Ireland, where at this time of year it starts to get dark at four p.m., and on rainy grey days—we have a lot of rainy grey days—it can sometimes feel as though the sun hasn’t come up at all.

I put effort into managing my depression at the best of times. In the last couple of years, managing my depression has been complicated by the need to manage a growing amount of anxiety (which sometimes makes concentrating on anything other than not tearing off my own skin difficult). And with the relentless march of holiday-themed merchandise and advertising kicking my financial anxiety into higher-than-usual gear, I want to take this opportunity to look back on the narratives that 2017 gave me that have proved… sustaining, in more ways than one. Art is what keeps me going, most of the time. Art is what gives me ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Djinn and Politics in an Interesting Debut

It’s not just me, is it? 2017 has been a really great year for debut novels. From Nicky Drayden’s The Prey of Gods to R.E. Stearns’ Barbary Station, from Robyn Bennis’s The Guns Above to J.Y. Yang’s The Black Tides of Heaven, and from K. Arsenault Rivera’s The Tiger’s Daughter to Vivian Shaw’s Strange Practice, 2017’s managed to give us a pretty full slate of great new writers whose work we can—hopefully!—keep on looking forward to.

(2018, as far as literature is concerned, you have a lot to live up to.)

S.A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass is only the latest of this year’s excellent run of debut novels. It’s not my favourite—I have fairly specific tastes in what really hits my utter favourite spots. But it is a really solid fantasy novel with a vivid setting and an interesting set of protagonists.